SP Reading /Watching / Writing / Listening

Guest interview with Max Barnett

Maximus is the founder of Pylot, which is an analogue fashion / art based magazine. Each issue is themed, and one of the key concepts is that no images are edited / retouched.

This interview seemed very relevant to my current position with this MA course, the timing coinciding well with my musings on the best way forward. The following points are the ones I want to note and remember:

  • Relationships (in the work world) are so important, find a way that suits you. Industry is PR driven – you need to be able to talk to clients about other things too
  • Find your own voice, know who you want to be visually
  • Note who you idolise and work out how to get where they are, professionally
  • Have a printed portfolio, and for this choose your strongest work. Keep it simple – it shouldn’t be too long. With printed it’s possible to show finesse – the physical aspect allows the viewer to come away from the screen and therefore have more engagement with it. You can also see how things work in print – and it’s better received than showing on an iPad, for example
  • Your physical edit should be different to your website portfolio
  • Consider the relationship of the images when seen together, such as colour combinations and patterns. Your edit needs to be highly selective
  • Have different folios for different clients
  • Keep clients up to date – allow them to be able to see your new work, without being too pushy
  • If you leave things with potential clients, don’t make them too fussy. (Great advice for me, just as I was about to send out postcards with other attachments – I will now simplify my plan!)
  • If approaching magazines or agencies, ensure that you identify with what they are about as you need to be able to reflect their style – do your research
  • Spend more time with your own ideas


Beijing Silvermine

Beijing Silvermine

This link is to a Vimeo about the work of Thomas Sauvin in China.

Sauvin  rescues film negatives by the kilo at an illicit recycling dump in Beijing. He sorts and categorises them, sometime collaborating with others to make an animated film. He does not edit any of the images, preferring for them to tell their own story. Of his work, he says: ‘The story will have created itself on its own, at every new discovery.’

Sauvin finds fascination in the uniformity in all of the images.

’There is the feeling that they could have been shot by one person …there is a link between them all’.

By this he is eluding to the fact that the portrait shots are very often shot in the same position (middle  frame) with the same distance from the photographer.

The interest in this work for me lies with the use of appropriated images, and Sauvin’s analysis of the relationship between the photographer and their subject. This is something I have started to investigate in my work, especially when considering the use of text on the album page. Are they the words of the photographer, or the subject ? What is the relationship between the two? Does it change?

Unlike Sauvin, I use appropriated photographs to retell or remake a story, looking deep within the pictures and album to find clues; finding ways to thread them into a narrative which is a combination of fact and fiction.

Week three

14th October 2018

During Friday’s webinar, I made a note of the word vernacular as our tutor used it in reference to my work. Quite by accident I came across it again the following day whilst reading an article by Karin Becker (Becker 2016: p. 100).

Becker says: ‘Vernacular’ includes the everyday without excluding those special, unusual or ‘historic’ occasions that people use their own image making devices to capture. ‘

She goes on to say that ‘The vernacular … (builds) on tradition and at the same time (breaks) new ground, often drawing on forms of popular and public culture, both visual and non visual’… and that it ‘represents the experience of the normal person …closely tied to the photographer’s lived experience’

It is a natural step to discuss my current work from this perspective. With my (amateur) interest in genealogy and social history,  and embracement of modern technologies with experimental methodologies; I aim to colour found photographs with modern expressions relevant to my own life experiences. One of my most recent pieces of work combines a found 1920s photograph and writing from the album page with an image I made using the album as stimuli.

Rather than repeating everything that I have listened to this week, below is my summary of points discussed which are most pertinent to my own, evolving practice:

  • Interactive storytelling.  Just as it sounds, really – with the audience encouraged to interact with the narrative using technology and/or collaboration. In this way the storyline is not predetermined. Strangely, I also came across this concept in this week’ s Apprentice, in which teams were given the task of producing a comic using augmented reality (AR).
  • Another form of visual storytelling. ‘Photographs rendered in Play-Doh’ – an innovative concept using photography in a unique way by  Eleanor Macnair.
  • Storytelling via social media, in which the audience is coaxed into believing an elaborate performance. ‘Excellences and Perfections’ by Amalia Ulman had the audience convinced that what they were seeing was fact, which of course it wasn’t!

Week two

Wishing to know more about a photograph in Jimmy’s album of four men standing outside a Pathé building, I found contact details on their website and emailed this query:

  • Dear Sir or Madam,                                                       (sent 4/10/11)

I am writing to ask if you would be able to help me in my search of Pathe’s history in the 1920s, at Lisle Street.  Having just started the second year of my Master’s degree in Photography; my current research project is concerned with a photograph album which spans the years 1919-1932. In one of the photographs, four men are standing outside a building, with the caption ‘Lisle St W. Pathé (France or House) , May 1926 ‘. (Photo attached below.) Having read an article in British History Online I have matched my photograph with one taken in the 1960s with no. 5 Lisle Street. My main area of interest around this photo is what the men might have been doing there. Would you be able to give me any information regarding what the building was used for at that time? Did it show footage or was it used for offices? Were the public permitted inside? Was it a place that would have been primarily visited by the wealthy ? Perhaps it was a prestigious place to be photographed ? Is there any archival material from the building or film at that time that I might be able to use for the purpose of my MA? These are just general questions, but I would be very grateful if you are able to help with any details at all regarding Pathé in 1926. Many thanks for any information you are able to supply.

Yours faithfully

Teresa Williams

  • Dear Teresa                                                                       (received 5/10/18)

Many thanks for your email and your interest in our history! It’s really great to see these photographs.

I do wish I could be of more help to you, particularly since it is related to an MA. Unfortunately, our records have not been kept as well as they should have been over the years, mostly due to the fact that Pathé has changed hands so many times (the British newsreel division – which I work at – alone has had 12 different owners since it was founded, and the British feature film division and French production and distribution companies are all now separate entities with their own convoluted histories as well).

In fact, until you emailed, none of us here were aware we ever had an office on Lisle St at all! One reason for that might be that the newsreel offices were located on Wardour St. It may be that the feature film division was on Lisle St. Or the music record division, perhaps.

When British Pathé split from French Pathé in 1927, I’m assuming the building became part of British Pathé, though it is possible that the French company retained the building and had it as a UK office, like French Pathé does today on Ramillies St.

But due to the state of our paperwork records, it’s really not something I can work out with any certainty at all. Once again, apologies for not being of any use. But I hope you’re able to track down the information you need, and I wish you success with your studies.

All best                                                         

The photograph in question:  naturally I was delighted to receive a response so quickly, but disappointed not to have found any details about this image yet!


Guest lecture: Vikki Forrest, 2/10/18

Unfortunately this lecture coincided with one of my teaching days, luckily I was able to watch the recording. Having seen Vikki’s guest lecture a few months back, I chose to watch this one as a revision exercise – as my work is now veering towards the world of Photobooks.  However, this lecture was different and was predominantly about text and captions – which was incredibly useful.

Looking at three examples of Photobooks, specifically their layout and design, use of text and typography, Vikki stressed the importance of visual clues and the creation of the right atmosphere at the beginning of a book. New to me was the idea of a photo essay, how a series of photographs near the front of the book tells a story through images, in the same way that sentences and phrases do. Maybe this could be the way I incorporate some of Jimmy’s original photos into my book. Also something to consider using different paper for the photo essay than for the rest of the work.

28th September 2018

Guest lecture : Max Ferguson, editor (Smash&Grab; Port). (Viewed via the recording from 18/9/18)

As someone who is not looking for a career as a photographer after the MA ,Max’s talk gave me some hope that there might be other opportunities to work creatively within the photography world.

Key points for me:

  1. When he uses the term ‘young’ – he is referring to new photographers rather than being defined by age.
  2. Instagram is likely to be looked at before website by editors
  3. Try to keep style as broad as possible
  4. Max doesn’t look for particular photographers, but photographs he likes, instead
  5. Brands look for photographers with a strong personal narrative. Cian Oba – Smith uses his website as a platform to show his personal projects rather than his professional ones
  6. It’s a necessity to have a tight website and to keep it well maintained
  7. There are more readers online than for print
  8. Max is constantly looking for ways that photographers can make more money – currently there is not enough work for the amount of working photographers

To do:

  1.  Update my website
  2. Work more on my Instagram account, weed out some of the photographs which don’t fit in with the image I am trying to create. (Have a personal, and a professional one?)
  3. Look at the work of Cian Oba – Smith
  4. Find out more about the magazines that Antenne Books and Artworks Books publish
  5. Keep looking for new ideas, a niche, and ways of presenting my work

23rd September 2018

Having subscribed to “Lecture in Progress”; listened to the week’s audio recordings on Canvas and watched the interview with Will Hartley; I made a list of pertinent quotes, tips and advice on becoming a photographer:

The earlier you can realise where your passions lie the better – Kyle Bean

Being confident in how you present your work is as important as making it – Luke Evans

If you’re not a bit stressed or unsure of how to approach something, then it’s too easy and you’re doing it wrong…To make the most of your time at university, don’t be afraid of trying new things and producing the work you like, instead of what you think other people will like. Trust me, you will enjoy your time more, gain deeper insights and work far better this way. But remember to always be humble and remain open to new ways of working.  Zanthe Simmans

Write it all down. See it all in one place – Roshni Goyate

Most things start with an email. From my own experience on receiving emails from those starting out, I like to see a web link, as well as a bespoke pdf attachment. I tend to lose the emails sent at certain times of the day – especially a Friday afternoon or in the middle of a busy day. Personally early morning suits as the day may not have begun in earnest for that perspective employer and it shows your not lazing in bed nursing a post-student hangover. I would suggest never sending at the weekend as there need to be boundaries. This also applys to when working with clients overall. Its not cool receiving emails late into the night or weekend. By all means formulate things at the weekend if need be but send during work hours.   – Charlotte Heal

Professional experience is necessary in a fast evolving industry. Initially it may be necessary to offer services for free.  Research the photographers you want to work with, present only positive character traits to them, and send a covering letter with your CV. Networking is important. Follow photographers on social media. Never stop learning. Keep on top of the latest equipment.  Take full advantage of what the university, its staff and peers have to offer. Listen to people’s advice and apply it to your own thinking. You make your own opportunities in life.

I have been working in a professional industry for the past fifteen years (albeit a different one), and so most of the points covered above regarding how to present oneself to other photographers, prospective employers and clients I apply to my own, current career.